Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Dispute Over Islets Frays Ties Between Tokyo and Seoul

By NORIMITSU ONISHI, The New York Times, March 22, 2005

SEOUL, South Korea, March 21 - In what had been billed as the South Korea-Japan friendship year, in recognition of 40 years of normalized relations, Japanese claims over two disputed remote islets have recently worsened relations between America's two most important Asian allies. The claims over the islets, called Tokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan, were regarded here as an attempt to justify Japanese colonial rule and have drawn huge protests in front of the Japanese Embassy in recent days. A mother and son each cut off a finger; a man whose father had been brutally forced to serve in the Japanese Imperial Army, Heo Kyung Wook, 54, set himself on fire.

"My father passed away 20 years ago, but he used to tell us stories about how the Japanese treated him, and my anger built up over the years," Mr. Heo said Monday, recuperating at a hospital here from burns to his lower body and neck. "When I saw the news about Tokdo on television, I couldn't contain my anger."

Raw anger at Japan's militaristic past remains just below the surface here, as it does in other parts of Asia invaded by Japan, even as Japan itself grows less open to addressing its problematic history. In a region where the balance of power is shifting because of the rise of China and its perceived threat to American influence, the fracas over the islets shows the combustible addition of nationalism in Japan and on the Korean peninsula.--------------

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